I catch Logan over by the register counting change or lack thereof. Poor guy will be completely grey before his twentieth birthday. All he thinks about is turning a profit. Really I know he’s trying to hang onto the last bit of his parents he has left—and that incarnation just so happens to be this bowling alley.
Brielle comes in with her hair pulled back, energized like she just stepped out of a light socket. She speeds in this direction with a girl about our age, face of angel, body to match, so of course I drop the mop and head on over. They try taking a seat but Logan intercepts.
“Bree,” he says, but it’s her friend he’s interested in. Any new female on the island has a Logan shaped target on her forehead until he tags and bags her—then again, he’s never slept with anyone but Chloe, and God knows that turned into a nightmare.
I shoulder up to him and devour the new girl with my eyes—forget to breathe or move in the process.
She’s wearing shorts that show off her golden tan legs that stretch out forever. Her hair falls in waves, long over her back.
The room warps. Everything turns into a muddy spiral with the exception of the vision standing before me. I know that beautiful face, those prism-like eyes. She’s haunted my dreams for years, supplied my waking hours with nonstop fantasies, and now she’s standing in front of me as if she had always been here.
“Guys, this is Skyla,” Brielle bounces. “She’s moving into Chloe’s old house. Skyla, these are the knuckleheads I work with, Logan and Gage.”
Chloe’s house—just hearing that, pulls the pin on a grenade I’ve been lugging around in my gut.
My insides erupt like a furnace. Being near her kick-starts a serious rush of adrenaline, and my hands begin to shake.
Love her name. I love the way she rest her hand on her hip, the way a smile plays on her lips as if she’s too shy to give it. There’s a softness in her spirit, a meekness that draws me in.
I’ve counted weeks, days, hours, without any idea if she even existed—with the very real possibility it were all some hallucination my mind had conjured up in an effort to torture me, and yet she’s real—so damn freaking beautiful—and most certainly not noticing me.
She’s looking at Logan—probably wondering why he’s smiling like some deranged lunatic. I’d better step in before he wrecks everything—before she decides it’s better to steer clear of the bowling alley and the Olivers in general for her own personal safety.
“Skyla?” I put my hand out, and she takes it, soft and fragile. I close my eyes a moment as her flesh warms to mine. “Gage Oliver.” My heart pounds so loud I’m sure she can hear it. Not even the sound of the bowling balls thundering towards their destination can drown it out.
Maybe I should lean in and kiss her on the cheek or
something? I shake the thought away. What the hell kind of idiot kisses someone they just met? This is going to end with a slap in the face or a restraining order if I don’t maintain.
“You have a very unique name,” Logan extricates my hand and takes over. “It’s beautiful.”
He bows in and presses his lips just under her wrist.
That answers my question. Logan is just the right kind of idiot—a real knight in shinning armor. I’m sure he’ll be throwing rocks at her window later for the midnight serenade.
I glare over at him.
He’s hypnotizing her with his pretty boy magic, flashing his teeth, broadening his chest—forgetting to exhale like he’s giving some primal demonstration of his athletically advanced DNA.
Skyla gives a less than amused smile. Hopefully she’s categorizing him in the dope with no hope division.
“Logan Oliver,” his voice dips low.
Brielle and I exchange looks at the desperation of it all.
“Oh, so you’re brothers?” She turns her body into him. It looks seductive, like some erotic autonomic response, and an alarm goes off in me.
Logan is taking over. She’s buying into him hook, line, and sinker.
“Cousins,” he corrects as if he’s trying to distance our blood relations. “I live with them.” He lays his other hand over hers like some bizarre display of benevolence.
I’m sure he’s plowing through her thoughts, spinning through them like a Rolodex trying to decipher how she feels about him—see if there’s anything he can use against her in the name of sealing the deal.
“My parents are both deceased,” he adds.
And he goes there. I cut him a dirty look.
It sounds like he blurted it out but still. Knowing Logan, there’s an underlying strategy involved.
Skyla shrinks a little as she takes in this odd admission. She pulls nervously at a long strand of hair, looking perfectly freaked out.
I glance back at Logan.
Nice work, Romeo. Boys with dead parents are a no-fly zone for most girls. Emotional trauma isn’t usually high up on the must have list of attributes.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Her eyes round out in horror.
Unless, she happens to be the exception.
Her hips sway into him, and she gives a look that suggests she might be willing to comfort him physically.
“My dad died, too.” Her voice softens to nothing as she glances to her feet.
My heart stops. Just hearing her say those words makes my stomach bottom out.
I hope Logan feels like crap for digging in the graveyard for sympathy. Now look—she’s visibly upset.
Everything in me wants to comfort her. The fresh look of hurt in her eyes lets you know it wasn’t long ago, that it stings like hell to think about. I want to tell her it’s going to be OK, but I know better. OK is a futile word especially when it’s nothing but a lie. Things like this never turn out OK.
Logan surrenders her hand like returning a stolen treasure.
I hope he heard how lousy she thinks he is for spotlighting her biggest loss.
“Sorry,” he offers. It comes out genuine with his own built in sadness filling in the cracks of her grief.
Logan motions them over to a nearby table, and I secure the seat in front of the girl from my dreams. No use in letting Logan lead her any further down the wrong path, i.e. himself.
He gives a dissatisfied look in my direction.
It’s on, and he’s pissed.
I blink a smile into him. I’ll gladly go toe to toe with Logan in this arena. This isn’t Michelle, or Lexy, or just any other girl on the planet. If he thinks I’m getting out of his way because he says so, he’s delusional.
All those dreams and visions mean something—the
one in the courthouse—Skyla looking up, waiting for a kiss—it was me she wanted it from—it had to be.
“So you’re a junior?” I touch my knuckles to the table like a nervous habit.
“Yup.” She bites into her lip—her perfect pout mesmerizes me. “And you guys?”
“We’re all juniors!” Brielle rattles her to attention.
If Logan and his eulogy didn’t run her off, Brielle and her manic enthusiasm—over school of all things, just might do the trick.
She stares into Bree with great intensity.
“So tell me about Chloe,” Skyla says it casual with a dark undertone that pricks my hairs on end.
The table goes quiet.
Nobody knew Chloe like I did. I’d venture to say that even Logan with his sexual conquest of the dearly departed knew her far less.
A part of me wants to tell her about Chloe, about the hype and paranoia that surrounds her, but no good could ever come of it. The last thing I want is to spook her—send her into Logan’s arms permanently and ruin things.
I’m keeping my mouth shut that’s for damn sure.
For a minute I consider taking her someplace private so we can be alone like Devil’s Peak or Rockaway. I want to tell her that I’m already in so deep, that I’m dying to know her, feel her, taste her.
I bear into Skyla with a penetrative stare—drink her down like holy water, take in her beauty, the light she radiates without even trying, but she doesn’t glance back. She’s too lost in Logan to even notice.
I doubt those visions will ever come true if she gives her heart away to someone else.
I know one thing for sure—I’ll fulfill a commitment I made long ago to find a place for myself in her life. I’ll rearrange the universe to make this happen. Logan doesn’t stand a chance.
She bats her lashes into him dazzled and doe-eyed, drop-kicks my heart in the process—a field goal for the other team.
This is going to be tougher than I ever imagined.
GAGE’S Point of View:
Chapter 31 (EXPEL)
Skyla and I pull up in front of Chloe’s house in the middle of a downpour. It seems to rain harder here than any other place on the island. Figures. Probably due to some demonic force field residing above the Bishop house. Wouldn’t surprise me.
I look over at Skyla. We set the bowling alley on fire tonight with those hotter than hell kisses she kept delivering. The girl can melt a glacier with just one look.
Her hair is still beaded with rain from getting in the car and her eyes glow like street lights. We should be anywhere but here. If Skyla hasn’t learned her lesson about “befriending” Chloe by now—one of these days Chloe is going to lead her into a dumpster and set the damn thing on fire before bolting down the lid.
“Are you sure this is how you want to spend Saturday night?” I ask, turning off the engine.
“I’m sure. Besides, Ethan begged me to come, so did Brielle. Ethan’s got something up his sleeve,” she whispers. “He’s not as quick to forgive as Chloe believes.”
“And why are you?” I lean into her, soaking wet and in the mood to continue the conversation our bodies were having at the bowling alley. The last thing we need to be doing is hanging out with Ethan and Chloe. We should be doing other things, like showering together.
“I’m not,”—she exhales—“I just, I think deep down inside I want to believe her. Everyone’s redeemable right? We all make mistakes, huge, horrible mistakes and in the end when we wake up to what we’ve done—most of us are sorry.”
“Chloe doesn’t have a heart, Skyla.” I offer a kiss to try and change our plans for the evening. “And the fact yours is too big is the reason I love you most.”
She leans in and melts her lips over mine. She flicks her tongue against mine until I catch it gently with my teeth—she chases my tongue until she does the same. I like these little games we play. She moans when we kiss like she wishes it would string out forever. She pulls back slowly and swallows hard. Her eyes widen as she takes me in.
She presses her lips to my ear and whispers, “I love you so much. I don’t think I could breathe without you.”
No sooner do we step through the door than the smell of chocolate chip cookies light up our senses.
I take in a deep lungful and close my eyes a moment wishing away the next hour. The last place on earth I want to be is at Bishop’s house with Skyla by my side. Feels wrong, like running through a thorn bush naked. Makes me feel as if my balls are in jeopardy, they probably are.
Logan nods over at me while Michelle wraps herself around him like a serpent. I pump my lips at him without the benefit of a smile. It’s weird watching Miller drill her tongue in his ear—something’s off about him lately. He would have welcomed Michelle on her knees once upon a time, but with Skyla in his sights I’m not buying it. He’s been a dick so I’m leaving it alone for now.
Skyla detours us into the family room where Drake and Brielle treat us to a demonstration of how they made their baby.
Everyone’s here, but it still doesn’t make me want to stay.
Chloe snags my eye. She glances my way before dipping her hand between Ethan’s leg and I avert my gaze. We both know who she’s really propositioning. Chloe’s goal in life is to give me a hard on.
Pierce struts by and Skyla goes rigid. I wrap my arms around her waist and drop a kiss into her neck until she relaxes into me. Her whole body sighs when I touch her. I run my tongue up to her ear and feel her shudder, her neck rolling back with pleasure. We could be doing so many mind-blowing things right now. What the hell are we doing at Bishop’s?
She turns her head into me. “Guess what?” Her voice is low and husky, and the bulge in my jeans perks up to attention. “I want to talk to you later about something super important.”
Talk? We’re definitely not on the same page. “Does this ‘super important’ topic require a hotel and protection?” My lips curve as I try to hide the fact I’m hopeful.
“No.” She lowers her lashes. “But we could talk about that, too.”
Skyla crashes into me with a kiss. She dives her tongue deep into my throat, washes in and out of my mouth like a promise, a preview of things to come, and God I want things to come.
“All right,” Ethan booms.
I bet Chloe wrenched his ball sack until he interrupted the love fest between Skyla and me. It was either him or a bullet.
Ethan continues, “Let’s get this movie going before it gets too late.”
Chloe twitches a smile in my direction. She thinks I’m in too deep with Skyla and it pisses her off brilliantly. “Brace yourselves girls.” She pops a DVD into the player. “It’s three glorious hours of battleships and tanks—Ethan’s pick. He won the wrestling match.” I’m sure it was more like a cage fight. “Next time, I assure you, the cover will be pink, and there will be hot shirtless man-candy to drool over for two hours straight.” She licks her lips while looking right at me.
“I’ll give you some man-candy to drool over.” Ethan knocks into her with his hip before gnawing on her face.
“I think he’s chewing on her,” I whisper to Skyla.
“He is. But in his defense, one doesn’t get a whole lot of practice kissing when they’re dead.”
She’s got a point. I, for one, am definitely not dead, and I plan on blowing Skyla’s mind later with some smooth moves of my own. I take in the scent from her hair, cinnamon and roses. I press my face into her curls before lacing our fingers together.
“Let’s do this.” Pierce lands a hand over Nat’s shoulder before reaching down and tweaking her boob. Nice. Rounding out second base in front of a dozen different people. It’s Kragger’s pornographic fantasy—we’re all just living in it.
I would never do that to Skyla. And she would never dive her hand into the front of my jeans like Chloe’s done to Ethan twelve times already. Skyla and I know better. We respect one another. She’s fallen in love with me, so deep and so hard there’s nobody else for her. I can feel it.
The lights dim. The monster television that expands across the wall, flickers on and off like a flare.
Skyla pops on the screen, smiling her gorgeous smile while music blares in the background.
Knew it. Chloe’s got it locked and loaded to humiliate. I squeeze Skyla’s hand and start lifting us up to get the hell out of here.
Skyla sucks in a sharp breath. “What the—”
Dudley explodes on the television and I fall back into my seat. He’s got his mouth over Skyla’s like he’s giving her CPR and her shoulder is turned into him like she’s enjoying it.
“This one’s for you, Gage,” Chloe spouts off.
It goes on for what feels like hours. Dudley on Skyla—Logan with his face pressed into hers, his hands locked over her bottom, fingers digging in. Ellis springs on the screen with his jeans twisted down by his ankles and Skyla on her knees in front of him.
Harrison? Holy shit.
Skyla freezes solid as I let go of her hand. Neither of us moves, we just watch the train wreck unfold at record speed. My body explodes with heat as Skyla wrenches a knife in my gut with her actions. And here I thought she only wanted me—loved me. What a joke.
Dudley and Skyla light up the room, going at it in bed. She’s wearing lingerie, and all she ever wore for me was a T–shirt. Then it’s the Logan and Skyla highlight reel, all faces, tongues like leashes, her hands sunk below his waist. No wonder he’s been such a prick. Michelle is a just a ruse, someone to kill time with until I free up Skyla for him. It all makes sense.
The music rises in decibel. The grand finale’s coming I can feel it. A part of me says leave now—don’t give anyone the satisfaction. Then I see it. The Mustang gyrating hot and heavy like it was powered by hydraulics. It’s parked in the dark lot just above Devil’s Peak. It looks private, abandoned, perfect place to…
The camera zooms in. There they are, Logan’s bare ass is pumping into Skyla with his arms above her shoulders like he’s strangling her with passion. Skyla bites her lip as Logan buries his face in her neck. Her lids tremble. Her lashes blink open—her eyes roll back into her head just the way I imagined they would if she ever gave me the chance to love her like that—the way she looks in my dreams when I do.
The television fades to black before a loud pop goes off and smoke blows from the back of the unit.
Figures. Logan and Skyla were too hot to handle, literally. I guess not even technology can deny chemistry like that. She probably uses Dudley and Ellis for target practice. And, Ellis? Really?
I'm numb. My heart is drained from every emotion I ever let it feel, shredded to pieces in less than a few minutes.
A roll of nausea pushes through me as I head for the door. I had a feeling I’d have my balls handed to me on a silver platter if I showed up tonight, I just never imagined it’d be from Skyla.
If Chloe’s intent was to teach me a lesson for getting too close to her pet project, she wins.
Chloe was right.
Skyla was never that into me.
EXPEL Chapter 71
~*Gage Oliver’s point of view:
I press my hand into the small of Skyla’s back as we walk into Dudley’s class. Another hour with the clown who thinks he’s going to marry Skyla Messenger.
Right. I’ll go to the grave before that happens. Hell—I’ll come back from the grave to make sure it doesn’t happen. I’d gladly hand her to Logan before that atrocity ever takes place.
I slip a kiss beneath her ear before taking a seat behind her.
A dull laugh rattles through me at the thought of ever willingly handing her to Logan. That’s about as unlikely as Dudley.
Ellis walks in and nods over to me, stoned out of his freaking mind, per usual. Oddly enough, he considers himself a contender, too. Still can’t believe he thinks he’s got some emotional bond with her. The only bond they share is the weed she helps him hijack from his former self. Ellis’ definition of a relationship is a one-night stand. And, a lasting relationship is defined by whether or not he remembers her name in a week.
Skyla spins around, sinks those crystal cut eyes into me and smiles before returning to her desk—pretending to take notes. Sometimes I look over her shoulder for the hell of it and catch her drawing our names in a heart—spelling out Mrs. Oliver. I wonder if I’m the Oliver she has in mind. Judging by the way she kisses me, I’m pretty damn sure I am.
Chloe catches my attention and I cut her a look—blink a half-smile in her direction.
She licks her lips like an afterthought and flashes a wicked grin. She wants to meet later, talk to me about ‘some things’ as she put it—and I will—but the last thing I want is Skyla seeing us together. Just the thought of me with Chloe sets her off, and I need Skyla to trust me.
Skyla’s hair spills over my desk and I gently wrap a strand around my finger. It’s spun gold—nothing but extravagant beauty growing from her scalp. No wonder Chloe can’t stand her, she’s perfect. There’s not a damn thing wrong with an inch of Skyla Messenger’s body—and what I would love to do to that body.
I envision us on the beach—Rockaway with its shadowed sand, the navy slick of the ocean rising from behind. Skyla stands before me, wiggles her hips as she shakes off her shorts, tosses her top in the air like confetti.
The curve of a smile plays on my lips as I sink down in my seat.
I picture Skyla pulling me in, taking off her bathing suit top—pressing her soft skin against mine.
Dudley clears his throat and shakes me out of my midday delight.
Probably reading my mind again. Bastard. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what he’s thinking. Half the time he doesn’t bother to hide the boner he has for Skyla. The dude is freaking sick.
I get back to my happy place there on the beach with a mostly disrobed Skyla at the ready. She slips her hands up my shirt and helps me take it off to even out the playing field. I hook my fingers in her panties and send them sailing to the floor.
The sound vacuums out of the room and I snap out of my fantasy. I catch Dudley staring in this direction again, only his efforts aren’t pinpointed at me this time. He’s locked eyes with Skyla and the entire room is fascinated by their nonverbal exchange.
What the hell?
I sit up and glance over at Chloe.
She gives a little smile and darts her hand in the air.
There you go. If anyone can break the spell it’s Bishop. She’s an expert at inserting herself between Skyla and just about anyone. I should know.
“Hands down,” Dudley barks. He doesn’t bother breaking his gaze, just keeps digging into Skyla with those fireballs he sees the world through.
Ellis spins around and whispers something to her. His eyes are so glossed over I doubt he realizes Dudley is in the middle of a wet daydream.
I glare over at the so-called teacher.
Who the hell does he think he is? He’s taking her in like she’s a fucking glass of water, drinking her down to the dregs right here in the middle of class.
He zeros in on her, you could feel the lust radiating off him like a furnace. His face entertains the slight impression of a dirty smile, and I can only imagine what the hell is going through that mind of his. God knows thousands of years of perversion are hard at work.
“You have five fucking seconds to knock this shit off,” I warn.
He doesn’t flinch, doesn’t waver from his all out mental molestation, just keeps at it like he’s doing her in real time, right here in front of the student body—namely me.
I spike out of my seat and bolt on over. The silver chair he slouches on day after day stands in my way so I sail it out the window—a clear demonstration of what I’m about to do to his head.
A roll of thunder rattles from outside, a gust of wind cools down the room. I don’t need much encouragement to rearrange his face but the rush of fresh air inspires me.
I pull back and lock one over on him. His jaw gives a satisfying pop beneath my knuckles so I pummel him again.
He knocks me back and we roll onto the floor.
I kick and thrash his Sector ass all over the place.
Harrison shouts at the two us before plucking us apart like a bouncer.
“Your stay here,” Dudley grits the words between his teeth, “has just been markedly reduced.”
The bell gives an earsplitting cry overhead.
“Take him directly to principal Rice.” Dudley touches his lip and examines my handiwork. “Inform her of the attack and let her know we’ll need the windows boarded up at once.”
A couple of guys harness me from behind and navigate me towards the door.
I catch Chloe whispering something to Skyla. She’s a rose full of thornes—add a couple horns and a tail, and you’ve got Chloe.
She locks eyes with me for a moment and pinches a smile. Chloe prefers me with my hands tied behind my back, much like I am now.
That’s exactly what she told me last week when she saw me naked.
(Gage and Logan are at the faction meeting that they didn't want Skyla to attend. Gage gets bored and he begins to replay the evening, casting himself as Skyla’s love.)
Nicholas Haver segues right back into the minutia of everyday life, discussing the potholes on Saddle drive, and my mind goes numb from listening. If you ask me the Faction Council is in need of new leadership. For all practical purposes this could be a "city" council meeting because not a thing about the factions has been brought up once.
I’m so fucking bored. I wish I were back at the party. Hell, I wish I could rewind the night and have it all work out different. Now there’s a “superpower” I’d love to have.
I imagine the house with all of its haunted memories of Chloe—those paper butterflies that I’m not even sure Skyla is aware of yet, lurking in the attic room just above her closet. I picture Logan and I walking in and starting the night anew.
“Hi!” Skyla would be eager to greet me. She wouldn’t even notice Logan and his pretty boy smile.
I’d try to say something and she’d place her finger over my lips. “Don’t talk. Just kiss me.”
I’d plunge my lips over hers and we’d kiss right there in front of every person I know.
It would be me that Skyla wanted to make a public proclamation with, not Logan. It would be me peppering her head with kisses, me with my arm secured around her waist, but it wasn’t.
I don’t know if it ever will be.